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The Best Stuff We Bought This Year

We see your overly niche gift guide and we raise you … this

Ringer Illustration
Ringer Illustration

It is now officially December, and so the internet is teeming with gift guides. The genre has become noticeably niche: There are gift guides for ex-wives, for entrepreneurs, for Hamilton fans — there is a gift guide for the freshman track athlete, and it is not a joke. (Don’t even think about getting something on this list for the sophomore track athlete!) It doesn’t have to be this hard, because all anyone really wants is a new, nice thing wrapped up and handed to them.

The Ringer gift guide is just a list of the best stuff we bought this year and recommend you do, too. There is no price range or theme, and nothing on the list is dictated as ideal only for the freshman track athlete in your life. (Though there are some things she will love as well.)

Allbirds, $95, and/or On Cloudventure, $150

(Allbirds, On)

(Allbirds, On)

Because I am starting this gift guide of sorts, I’m going rogue and recommending two things: Everyone wants expensive sneakers, but few among us will invest in them. That is what makes something a good gift. I have two pairs of shoes that I consider life-changers — Allbirds wool sneakers (left) that might as well be slippers yet are acceptable for public wear, and On’s new Cloudventure trail runners (right). The former, as previously stated, are basically sleeping bags for your feet that also look good, and the latter are what cured my shin splints and made me realize running actually doesn’t have to hurt/is fun. — Molly McHugh

Back Scratcher, $2

(Wish)
(Wish)

Here is my recommendation: It’s a wooden back scratcher that costs $2. I got one last year for Christmas and it very quickly became my most loved possession. We have this shelf thing at our house right by the front door and on the underside of it there are these little hooks where you’re supposed to hang your coat or sweater or whatever. I hang the back scratcher on there. It’s probably gross to do — seeing a thing that I use to scratch my Dad Back when you first walk in our home surely is not what my wife had in mind when she put the shelf there — but that’s just how things worked out. — Shea Serrano

Uniqlo Cashmere Sweaters, $79.90

Uniqlo
Uniqlo

Once you go cashz you never go back, except cashmere is often horribly expensive. But not these babies. They’re almost always under $100 and they go on sale frequently. They are made from sturdy, soft cashmere and they offer many nice colors. I bought myself the women’s magenta crewneck and my partner the men’s navy crewneck and when we wear them together we look like a horrifying preppy power couple and I’m extremely into it. — Kate Knibbs

Three Posts Verona Storage Chaise Lounge, $300

(Wayfair)
(Wayfair)

The kindest thing I did for myself this year was buy this very reasonably priced chaise lounge and turn it into my apartment’s sole "electronics-free zone." I would highly recommend this particular lounge, because it’s quite comfortable and you can hide a lot of things in the storage compartment, but you can do this with any couch, or love seat, or bean bag chair, etc. I can’t believe how many more books I finished this year just by making this small change in my life, having a cozy physical space where I could escape the endless distractions of the internet. My chaise lounge has never received the transmission of a single Donald Trump tweet; my chaise lounge probably thinks Harambe is still alive. It is my sanctuary. — Lindsay Zoladz

Innisfree Second Skin Masks, $20, or ‘Fate and Furies,’ $12

(Amazon)
(Amazon)

If you like taking care of your skin, Innisfree second skin masks. If you don’t, Fate and Furies by Lauren Groff. It’s easily devourable and really entertaining if you like complex, well-developed characters. I haven’t been this captivated since I read White Teeth. (I stand by this statement. Don’t @ me.) — Nicole Bae

Google Home, $129

(Google)
(Google)

Since I got a Google Home, there are few things that make me feel more powerful than walking into my living room and commanding an inanimate object to feed me sound. When I ask it for news, I receive my own little version of an intelligence briefing — except instead of classified information about terrorists or whatever it’s NPR’s David Greene talking about how the government has failed our veterans. And when I ask it to play obscurely named Spotify playlists that I’m too embarrassed to name here, Google Home actually understands what I’m talking about. But probably the best part is that I can ask for this information with a toothbrush in my mouth, while I’m washing the dishes, or mid-mouthful of pasta. This thing works with me at my sloppiest, most distracted moments. That is more than I can say about some actual adult humans, and — based on Ringer tests — definitely the Amazon Echo. — Alyssa Bereznak

Zencastr, $20-$120/month

(Zencastr)
(Zencastr)

If you know someone who records or produces a podcast (and it’s 2016, so you do), I can say from experience that a subscription to Zencastr is the greatest gift you can give. Anyone who records remotely and doesn’t have access to a fancy studio knows the typical podcasting pitfalls: audio that sounds only as good as a Skype call, or the hassle of having every person on the podcast record separately and send their tracks to someone else to be synced in editing. Using Zencastr, a browser-based site that automatically uploads local audio from each party’s computer with no extra software required, is the best way I know to get great sound without having to give your guests or cohosts homework. It’s made my life easier in a way that few products do. — Ben Lindbergh

14-Pack of Plastic Fake Wayfarer Sunglasses, $31

(Amazon)
(Amazon)

My job obliges me to be outside sometimes, at baseball stadiums, driving to baseball stadiums, and so on. And since I live in Texas, which is six inches from the sun, my propensity to lose sunglasses is a huge risk. So for $31, I bought 14 pairs of sunglasses in every color of the rainbow, which are practical and festive and can be swapped in and out to match any outfit. It’s the best investment I’ve made in years. — Michael Baumann

MoMA Cube Clock, $40

(MoMa)
(MoMa)

I love clocks. This one is sleek and cool and a little mysterious. It’s really hard to set up, so you feel brilliant when you’ve done it. Corollary: I recommend not using your cellphone as your primary bedroom clock. — Juliet Litman

Marshall Stanmore Bluetooth Speaker, $350

(Marshall)
(Marshall)

First of all, the look is classic, and pays homage to the ubiquitous Marshall guitar amps that we’ve seen stacked on stage behind just about every rock band and punk band dating back to the ’60s and ’70s — complete with the Marshall logo on the distinctive mesh covering, leather jacket, and the amp-style knobs to adjust the bass and treble. But it’s not just a gimmick — this thing packs audio punch. It puts out a rich, heavy sound with crystal-clear high-end notes — and like an actual amp, when you stand in front of this thing when it’s turned up loud, you can actually feel the … wind? … from the heavy low-end thumps it produces. The Bluetooth capability is just an added bonus. This thing is rad. — Danny Kelly

Yurbuds Leap Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, $100

(Yurbuds)
(Yurbuds)

This is not a new thing by any means, but the best thing I got recently was the Yurbuds Leap Wireless Bluetooth headphones my wife gave me as a birthday gift. After years of dealing with annoying cords flopping around in my face during runs or workouts, I’m thoroughly enjoying not having to put up with accidentally unplugging my headphones while stretching or trying to do a set on the bench. Also, they sound great (though I’m admittedly no audiophile)! — Jack McCluskey

Magnetic Bottle Opener, $25

Amazon
Amazon

You probably have someone in your life that has bought into the craft beer craze. But, problem: Most beer-related gifts are tacky crap. No one needs a beer chiller, a black-and-tan-layering tool, or a scammy-as-hell Fizzics System, whatever that is. A magnetic bottle opener is great, though. I have one and I use it every time I crack open a bottle. Keeps caps from getting all over my apartment, makes me look like less of a drunkard, and it’s just kinda fun. As if opening a good bottle of beer wasn’t already fun enough! Brand doesn’t matter — as long as it’s got a good, strong magnet the beer aficionado in your life will love it. — Riley McAtee